I do not like squared paper – towards a solution to a science dilemma

Laboratory Books I need to love
on every page have squared paper –
a push away from science.
Title, abstract, introduction,
materials, methods, results,
discussion, conclusions, references
is our way.

Squares for every single letter.
Squares for every single digit.
Obsessively square control
for everything written every time,
every day in a square,
day by day, in laboratory books.

My love of digits in squares faded
with childhood mathematical prowess.
Now I could not do a budget
to save a single round cent,
yet I need to love squares again
to get some science done.

I think I am finding a way.
1000 questions in long hand
writing across square boundaries
as if they do not box me in.
Angle the page so as my hand
follows a horizontal sometime.
Write on every second line
for a page at least.

Are the problems real? The trauma is.

An unethical pharmacology demonstration
in a graph on squared paper
displaying after injection the last of a life.
Traumatic physics assignments,
of metallic springs stretched
beyond their design load.
Laboratory Book marking
turned me to botany,
and on to vegetation quadrats
standing in squares recording plants.
Geographic co-ordinates are
squares set on arcs on the celestial round,
squares undermined by cadastral appeal.

The scientific solution is to add
a compass with pencil arcs
to turn squared paper on the lathe to beauty.
Arcs and curves, sine waves and parabolas –
squares inhibit, if you do not love them.
Rekindle that spirit of botanical inquisition
to understand, model and represent.

Build that scientific model
from the materials to hand
of some phenomenon in the world.
Back of an envelope, they say,
Why not the herbarium folded packet
Latin name, plant geography, date, collector.

Find your voice, find your style,
let your laboratory book be
your window on to that inquisitive life.
For the love of squares, with a compass then,
create arcs of roundness,
and a few tweaks here and now,
terms of reference, ethical concerns,
why this science is good for society,
and why it is right for us to do.
Masking tape to add notes culled from
notes written in undisciplined places,
until I like squared paper in the
Laboratory Books I need to love.

Vespers on Culture Night

We set off down the hill, looking for a glade and the Elm wood. Fingers feel their raspy leaves and their corky stems; a sensation some decades ago that was part of a child’s universe. On a day with an evening shower, the yews will keep our shoulders dry. We walk up the hill, as the river flows, and emerge from the trees protection, looking up at the Cedar of Lebanon as it recedes into the sky, a 20 metre parapluie, with a rainbow to the east. While we dash to shelter of the next Pin Oak, walking in soft shoes on acorn cupules, and round to the Holm Oak with the Payne’s grey Diploicia on the trunk base, where we tarry, for the next phase of the walk is exposed. Wet spectacles are wiped clear when we complete the round, and fog up as Burco tea in the galley from a hot tap flows. Such tea soothes our spirits, before the contemplation ahead.

Crescent moonrise over Loughshinny

The dog looks over me, waiting for me to wake up. A whimper to see if I am emerging from unconsciousness, and then a few more insistent barks when he sees he is getting a result. Clasping palms, I roll towards the edge of the bed, my elbow righting myself for the day ahead.

His single woof, at his nemesis Bran, chambered next door, is his acknowledgement that he is on his way up and out for his morning walks. Out the door, down the steps, to the lawn for a quick pee, and the pressure is off. He runs dollop, bear-like, a black and white Manx panda dog, tailless, with ferocious teeth, sometimes.

We go around the old lifeboat house to the beach. The sand is wind blown this morning, scalloped, like something fresh from the Sahara, dry, footprint free.

He has woken me before for astronomical highlights. The red-eyed full moon during the tail end of a lunar eclipse over the bay in the winter, the moonlight reflected in a damp beach with the southwest Dublin sodium lamp glow. Another nocturnal walk around and across to the Chevrons in the spring, rocks at the edge of the bay, Venus light, on a moon free night, from the east reflected as spots on a gentle lapping sea.

His track across the sand is distinctive, a three pawed cluster with his peg leg leaving the mark of a pirate’s stump. The sand blows and a few grains reach my lips and I rub my eyes. I have always dreamt of seeing full moonrise at sea in the Pacific Ocean, but that would take planning.

This morning’s view is of a crescent moonrise east through the orange pre-dawn stripe of the horizon, over the Irish Sea. Rockabill lighthouse is to the northeast, a twelve second red blink, with an open sea horizon southeast to Lambay and on to the green second light on the navigation marker south in Loughshinny Harbour.

Returning for the camera, I capture seven views of the crescent moon to illustrate it. Johnny still slumbers in the mobile home, with his dog Blackie, who had hid under his mobile home for a few days unfed, and Wiry, carried under his arm past our window last night, past the risk of an encounter with one of our pair.

Oberon has been out before dawn, and Bran tumbles back into his canine reverie, while Oberon supervising the door, he lies, exhales nasally, and lies horizontal like a door draft excluder, ensuring that any ingress or egress cannot possibly be missed.

Seagulls, Greater Black Backs pick for lugworms, along the stripe of the freshwater spring across the beach to the west, their breast feathers catching the early morning sunrise with a glossy white to prawn pink hue.

I sit looking west, curious to know if the crescent moon is visible now, when I have finished writing this, the long shadows have more contrast, and the sunlight has more strength, now that the day is here.

HOWARD FOX
2 June 2016

Sharing a meal from one’s own world

Distilling the vocabulary of genera,
detailing their morphological senses,
applying nuances to an under-explored forest.

A creative pamphlet for Honduras,
hurriedly assembled to guide, from afar,
Irish people walking by trees.

Knowledge for communication and
an incentive to tarry, turn and see
botanical detail, that bypasses me.

My table shared, in a request for family seating for a meal,
withdrawn in a botany manuscript, booklet editing,
overheard conversation, cues for discourse,
as I emerge, courteously, from my own world.

Accented English hints at exotic linguistic prowess,
Language, French, German, no, Lithuanian, Russian, yes, Irish, cupla focal.
explaining with my best roundaboutly told story of how to practice Irish,
of caint ar an madra ag rith go tapaidh, tar eis an anibhdhe ag rith go tapaidh freisin …

Howard Fox,
21 March 2016

What

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.
Time is a healer, on your day off.
Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.
Talk in friendliness about anything,
compose something, talk it out loud,
for your sanity demands it,
connect with other souls, talk about modernity.
Listless in the heat, brain fry complete
deep breath, take it easy,
calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,
use your eyes for an exercise
to see what is a twig,
develop the vocabulary to communicate
about an entity external to me,
keep going, screening with your eyes
until you have seen something you did
not know exists, now
take your time, really take it easy,
look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,
what is it like ?
Use your mind to describe this entity,
maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,
or a photo, if you are impatient.
Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future
so that we can speak of the same entity,
in the same language, in the same words,
to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring
this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties
of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.
All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,
short-sighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,
for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,
to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps
with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do
mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,
that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties
is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps
if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
the scales on the eyes of your perception,
will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,
with intolerable situations, take a deep breath
and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and
release yourself from the tyrrany of why.
Why, for you have now delved
into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013

Before reacting to europanto

Parataxonomy and Optical ambition

Microscopy of mountain land
ascospore sizes of all fertile crusts
slides and cover slips
ascus photomicrographs neatly
measured by graticule
each volcanic island, measured and compared
Vincent versus Lucia, unequal effort provides history for each hypothesis
a species concept for insularity
in the tropical heat, Soufriere’s whiff in a cauldron of lichenological creativity
Dominica’s thelotremes versus Guadeloupe’s, Martinique versus Grenada
An Atlas for a young intellectual’s eyesight.

Attached to a tree
Crustose blade attacks
Sovereignty transferred to a museum sector
types and standards measured immaculately
the taxonomic exploration for an island,
one genus and family at a time,
foretold in forests.

[On the scientific ambition of many years work]

The Dunsany’s Ending

Charon rowed his Pirogue mirthlessly across the Styx
The dull pains in his athletic arms ached and
his face grimaced at each passanger like they both had
for thousands of years of time.
The routine of fifty souls from the island a day had increased for a month
to thousands and then declined to almost none.
In a week without calls for crossings, his time weary aches eased and he thought
‘The ways of the gods of this time on the island were strange’
At the end of the journey across, one shadowy soul whispered
‘I am the last’. Charon concentrated on the final strokes ashore,
and with a withering swish of his oars, Charon smiled at him.

SUNDOWN AT MARIGOT

In the evening sun
sipping a glass of rum
bringing a bit of heat to my cheek
the left ear hot and sizzled
the right lobe breezy in shade
looking out on the deck to the bay
elbows comfortable in my chair
a poet’s clipboard above my knee
sharpened pencil galloping across
line after line of words
imagining being at Marigot Bay
Pencil grip firm in the heat
now with a sun burned cheek
Pour me some more rum

Sundown at Marigot (continued)

Heat that warms your bones
Incandescent backbone aches melt away,
earlobe breezes startle irregularly,
your shadow shades the grass, denies them some evening pleasure
as a cloud crosses to melt the shadows away
Grass blade quivers, waiting until the fall of day
Look back at grey clouds, absorbing the sunlight like a sponge
fluffy and hey, I need to get back to Marigot some day

Pacing around, pencils clipboard bound
with a luminous brightness the clouds will release thee soon
while I wait, a few drops hiss on the hair on the back of my knuckle,
and others miss in their entireity
Mew heat to keep the spirit flowing
and calm, warm and glowing
would the clouds ever part
and give me a new blast from Icarus’ Inferno
to melt the waxes on skin
that a few moments ago I was sunbathing in.

Pacing works, movement allows
the reassignment of sun to your back
exercise and territorial tresspass
allow your shadow to shade the road
greenery released to double one’s pleasure.
May the tarmac boils subside while I am outside
getting a penetrating fourth verse
of a submission to Saint Somewhere
as a cloud whimsys away across
a blue azule backdrop.

For eventually I will get to Marigot
On one fine evening
The bone heats and ear sweats dribble,
while the draught of the tipple burns away at the gullet
as there is a verse to do.
May the sunshine in Marigot this evening
as I imagine it to.

[First verse posted on CLS, September 2012]

This is not a Mosquito

In Bed with Byron, writing in pencil
children are safe and the wit is instead.
Hail fair mirror where is dost cobweb
above your head saliently moved above the head board
preserved but moved acting with coughs similarly
tucked up in bedlam
the fly makes it across

Rain on the roof, a squib of a shower, the pencil chop sticks
alternate points keeping the writer hewn close to the sharpener
Oh – where is this going, this errant verse
mattress sprung knuckles bouncing pencils crossed above
sprung in cotton, comfortable in bed
exhale what cotton what crisp comfort against the skin
a parable of a poet watching a fly traverse towards the cobweb
and exit stage left.

banded abdomen of a nematoceran fly with haltomeres
a dipteran cigar now rests on the sloping ceiling
in for the night as far from the light as is safe
knuckles spring thud in between the beat of the lines
writing is all in the head
what emerges on paper is just that, if it is let flow,
short words selected by texting
the little ways of saying shortly instead. Not a Mossie.

Longwinded maybe but longworded no
it is the style of the composition
that what you are used to allows
why don’t you write in Patois
and let us hear that voice
subsumed with explosive friccatives rupturing through your lips
It is hard to imagine the sound in a sweet carib voice
without the shortened syntax to go with the reading out loud.
The voice is so distinctive

it must have a metrical metre
to turn those ears around.
hark, listen to the phone conversation in the far room
drawing to an end in agreement over earlier daily rows
why does a fan of verse
worry how it will turn out
when all that matters is getting it written
and let others figure what it is about
writing a poem, some say,
this will do, hey

Number the page in the beginning
crosssed pencil slip in an extra s
excessm this metrical metre has
a caribbean-ness, composed for a salon of salubriousness
where comment is stiffled by literary politeness
while a few rauckous members scribble away, posting notices of their output.
The reader counter is addictive
maybe you have to read it twice
we are all inveterate readers no matter what it is about !

Oh what whimsical fantasy is going to emerge
from this session of scribing
I must post my Dunsany
a place in the county of Meath
a poem with a chilling ending of a civilisation
Where is the draft I have written
dropped carefully on the floor by the bed
pencils write vertically while biros are disastrous in bed

What do you do when you run out of paper,
to put the composition in the writers atellier
a quick raid from the printer, keeps us going ahead
The rhythm of the writing to keep everything going smoothly along
rushing down the page in a different way,
puts the ache in the arm rather than on the hand grip.

The sound of the paper is thinner,
now that I have reached the last page
There are opposite sides to be covered
if one needs to go on.

The sound of scribing is a tonic to the soul before sleep
let us type it in in the morning and let us see where we get
encouragement is unnecessary for one with a voice
but welcome when it is not given in jest
for what a poet needs is just some acknowledgement
a few readers smiles as you struggle along digesting this

[Vikram Seth’s novel ‘Golden Gate’ is masterclass in prose poetry]

Tied to a tree

When I go travelling there,

I see what I see,

When I look at a tree,

the minutes extend one another

to quarter or half an hour,

before I move on to the next,

rewriting the logical words,

for each of the species,

with all those thalli,

on the surface of bark,

where I look with a lens,

and a spark.

Howard Fox,

14/15 ix 2015